Transcreating love – Is love universal?

love11Love… a four letter word which, according to Google  or Bing, seems so simple and straightforward  to translate. Yet, this is not the case as the term “love” has multiple different meanings. In fact, it applies to a wide range of positive emotions and not just conventional romantic love.

Let’s face it, marketing campaigns that engage us emotionally are more effective and powerful than those that don’t. But emotional responses vary, from person to person and from country to country.  Creating emotive campaigns that reach across borders and cultures isn’t easy.

You have to ask yourself, is there common emotional ground  across all different cultures?

Johnson and Johnson’s “Language of love” campaign argues that there is. According to them, “it’s that one universal language that mothers and babies speak; all across this vast world of ours”. Disneyland’s 1960s campaign famously promoted the California park as “the happiest place on Earth”, and footage of the Shah and Empress of Iran riding the Matterhorn rollercoaster in 1962 added to the perception that some positive emotions are shared across the globe.language of love

However numerous studies have found that emotions are shaped by culture, therefore it is common for people from different countries to display different emotions in the same situation.

Pepsi has demonstrated this by adapting its ads; making them relevant to each target market. Let’s compare the Pepsi ads in China and in America.

As the Chinese ad is almost 3 minutes long, I don’t expect everyone to watch it 🙂

This touching ad tells the story of an old man waiting for his son and daughters to visit him in the Chinese New Year – an event that puts special emphasis on family gatherings.

Chinese  brands have often turned to storytelling to engage with consumers on a deeper level. Powerful stories win the hearts of Chinese consumers and Pepsi successfully achieved this by forming  emotional connections with its Chinese consumers.

Now let’s have a look at the humorous Pepsi ad which was broadcast that same year for the American audience.

The promo sees the band arguing with American football player Drew Brees over a can of Pepsi. Whilst the messages of American ads are direct and stress on individual achievements,

[One Direction]

Platinum Album

[Drew Brees]

Dudes, I won the Super Bowl

[One Direction]

On the cover?

[Drew Brees]


Chinese ads put the emphasis on relationships.

While both ads associated Pepsi with positive emotions and connotations, they did so in very different ways–the Chinese ads through a long complex narrative full of emotive human relationships and the American ads through a short and snappy ad which focused on power, ability and the appeal of a glamorous lifestyle.

What about the word “Love” in slogans?

Since we have very few words to define love, people assign a certain level to what they’re feeling that may not exactly be accurate.

Whereas  English has multiple meanings for “love”, Spanish is a lot more specific.

(gustar, amar, querer, tener carino, encantar…).

The McDonalds tagline “I’m loving it” was translated in Spanish as “Me encanta” as this was the best option for the target market, conveying friendliness and informality.

Fast food chain Quiznos also have the word love present in their slogan “love what you eat”. In French they opted for a more creative approach and made this slogan rhyme. The memorable tagline “Le Goût par-dessus tout”, meaning “taste above everything else” gave the campaign a vibrancy that a literal French translation could never have matched.

Messages need to be changed to suit their audience. What provokes a specific emotional reaction in one culture is by no means guaranteed to draw the same reaction in another.  Creativity must be involved in a multilingual campaign in order to maintain cultural relevance. Creativity and transcreativity.


About soniasoundandvision

Hi and welcome to my blog. I will mainly be writing about my interests and the translation industry. Your comments are welcome :) Enjoy
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3 Responses to Transcreating love – Is love universal?

  1. Thanks for another great post. I agree entirely that human creativity is needed to make sense of these concepts. I’ve been told that Sanskrit has 96 different words for “love”. I’ve read a lot of Sanskrit poetry in translation and marvelled at its richness and beauty. I’m very grateful that these works were brought to me with their spirit intact.

    By the way I did watch the Chinese ad all the way through and it was worth it.

  2. Adele Marinescu says:

    A very good blog. All emotions can be complicated to communicate in a different culture, perhaps love more than any other. Thank you Sonia.

  3. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I will
    bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.

    I am quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

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